Annibale Bugnini

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Annibale Bugnini

Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Iran
Appointed4 January 1976
Term ended3 July 1982
PredecessorErnesto Gallina
SuccessorGiovanni De Andrea
Other post(s)Titular Archbishop of Diocletiana
Ordination26 July 1936
by Alcide Marina
Consecration13 February 1972
by Pope Paul VI
Personal details
Born(1912-06-14)14 June 1912
Died3 July 1982(1982-07-03) (aged 70)
Rome, Italy
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship (1969–1976)
Styles of
Annibale Bugnini
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleMonsignor

Annibale Bugnini CM (14 June 1912 – 3 July 1982) was a Catholic prelate. Ordained in 1936 and named archbishop in 1972, he was secretary of the commission that worked on the reform of the Roman Rite that followed the Second Vatican Council. Both critics and proponents of the changes made to the Mass, the Liturgy of the hours and other liturgical practices before and after Vatican II consider him a dominant force in these efforts.[1] He held several other posts in the Roman Curia and ended his career as papal nuncio to Iran, where he acted as an intermediary during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981.

Early life and ordination[edit]

Annibale Bugnini was born in Civitella del Lago in Umbria.[2]

He completed his doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas Angelicum in 1938 with a dissertation entitled De liturgia eiusque momento in Concilio Tridentino.[3]

He spent ten years in parish work in a suburb of Rome.[2] In 1947 Bugnini became involved in the production of the missionary publications of his order and became the editor of Ephemerides Liturgicæ, a scholarly journal founded in 1887 and dedicated to the study of the Catholic liturgy. Starting in 1949, he taught liturgical studies at the Pontifical Urban College (now the Pontifical Urban University). He later became a professor at the Pontifical Lateran University.[2]

Curial career[edit]

On 28 May 1948, Pope Pius XII appointed Bugnini secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reform,[2] which created a revised rite for the Easter Vigil in 1951 and revised ceremonies for the rest of Holy Week in 1955. The commission also made changes in 1955 to the rubrics of the Mass and office, suppressing many of the Church's octaves and a number of vigils, and abolishing the first vespers of most feasts. In 1960 the commission modified the Code of Rubrics, which led to new editions of the Roman Breviary in 1961 and of the Roman Missal in 1962.[4]

On 25 January 1959, Pope John XXIII announced his plan to convene the Second Vatican Council. On 6 June 1960 Fr. Bugnini was named secretary of the Pontifical Preparatory Commission on the Liturgy. This body produced the first drafts of the document that, after many changes, would become the council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963). When the council convened in October 1962, the Preparatory Commission was succeeded by the Conciliar Commission on the Sacred Liturgy, on which Bugnini was assigned the role of a peritus (expert). At the same time, Bugnini was removed from the chair of Liturgy at the Pontifical Lateran University because, in the words of Piero Marini, "his liturgical ideas were seen as too progressive."[5] In his posthumously published memoirs, Second Vatican Council consultant Louis Bouyer called Bugnini "a man as bereft of culture as he was of basic honesty."[6]

The council and Pope Paul VI approved the Constitution on the Liturgy on 4 December 1963. On 30 January 1964, the Pope appointed Bugnini secretary of the Council for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy.[7] Bugnini was appointed the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship by Pope Paul in May 1969.[8] In January 1965, he had become an undersecretary in the Congregation of Rites responsible for causes for beatification and canonization.[9]

Diplomatic service[edit]

On 4 January 1976, Pope Paul named Bugnini pro-nuncio to Iran. Bugnini studied the country, its history, and traditions. The results of his researches appeared in 1981 as La Chiesa in Iran (The Church in Iran).[10]

In 1979, Bugnini tried unsuccessfully to obtain, in the name of the Pope, the release of the American hostages being held at the United States embassy by followers of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He met with Khomeini to deliver Pope John Paul II's appeal for the release of the hostages.[11]


Bugnini died of natural causes at the Pope Pius XI Clinic in Rome on 3 July 1982.[12]

His detailed account of the work to which he devoted most of his career, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, appeared posthumously. An English translation was published in 1990.


The oft-repeated allegation of Bugnini's being a Freemason, was first made in print by Italian essayist Tito Casini in his book Nel Fumo di Satana. Verso l'ultimo scontro (Florence: Il carro di San Giovanni, 1976). Casini claimed that according to an anonymous source, Bugnini left a briefcase in a conference room. When someone found it and attempted to identify the owner, incriminating documents were within. English writer Michael Davies claimed that Pope Paul VI's sending of Bugnini to Iran as nuncio was due to this alleged revelation of Bugnini's Masonic affiliation,[13] though the task of his post-Vatican II congregation had just been completed (supra). Davies further claimed that an unnamed, conservative cardinal had told him in the summer of 1975 that he'd "seen (or placed) on the pope's desk" a "dossier" containing evidence of Bugnini's Freemason connection.[2]


  • La Chiesa in Iran (The Church in Iran), 1981
  • La Riforma Liturgica 1948-1975 (The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975), 1983


  1. ^ Wolfe, Kenneth J. (28 November 2009). "Latin Mass Appeal". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Davies, Michael. How the liturgy fell apart: the enigma of Archbishop Bugnini Archived 1 October 2016 at the Wayback MachineAD2000, June 1989, retrieved 30 September 2016.
  3. ^ "PROVINCIA ROMANA CONGREGAZIONE della MISSIONE di SAN VINCENZO DE PAOLI". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2015. Accessed 30 December 2014
  4. ^ Davies, Michael. Pope Paul's New Mass, Angelus Press 1980, p.497.
  5. ^ Marini, Piero (2007). A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal. Liturgical Press. p. xix.
  6. ^ Bouyer, Louis (2015). The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer From Youth and Conversion to Vatican II, the Liturgical Reform, and After. Angelico Press.
  7. ^ "Pope Names Overseers For Reforms of Liturgy". The New York Times. 31 January 1964. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  8. ^ Kappes, Christiaan. "Consilium and Vatican 2: Everything You Wanted to Know About Its Make-Up, Function, etc. (Replete with Graphs)". Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  9. ^ "Pontiff Fills Posts in the Roman Curia" (PDF). The New York Times. 27 January 1965. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  10. ^ Warda, Gladys. "Book Review: La Chiesa in Iran (The Church in Iran) by Annibale Bugnini" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies: 83–104.
  11. ^ "Ayatollah Gets a Plea From Pope on Hostages". The New York Times. 10 November 1979. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Papal Nuncio Bugnini Dies; Figure in Iran Hostage Crisis". The New York Times. Associated Press. 4 July 1982. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  13. ^ Davies, Michael (2003). Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II: Destruction of the Faith through Changes in Catholic Worship. Tan Books. ISBN 9780895557735.
Preceded by Delegate of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations
1968 – 9 January 1970
Succeeded by